Health Ministers in East, Central, and Southern Africa group photo

Violence Against Children Recognized by Health Ministers in East, Central and Southern Africa

Plus: A Retrospective on the Power of Partnership and the
Evidence-to-Policy Process

Maseru, Lesotho – Implementation Science Collaborative (ISC) partners are energized by the recent passage of ECSA/HMC71/R3, a resolution to recognize violence against children as an issue and the importance of data in addressing it. Adopted in February 2023 during the East, Central and Southern Africa Health Community (ECSA-HC)’s Health Ministers Conference (HMC), the resolution calls for the ECSA-HC to monitor and report on progress in implementing prior resolutions related to gender-based violence and child sexual abuse.

How Was This Achieved?

In the days leading up to the HMC, ECSA-HC, with the Lesotho Ministry of Health, hosted its 13th Best Practice Forum (BPF) and 29th Directors Joint Consultative Committee (DJCC) meeting in Maseru. The focus on protecting children from violence within ECSA/HMC71/R3 has in part resulted from a collaborative approach from ECSA-HC, City University of New York, University Research Co. LLC (URC), and Together for Girls. All played a role in the research, publication, and/or dissemination of the landscape analysis “Using Data to Inform National Efforts to End Violence Against Children: Country Experiences and Lessons Following Violence Against Children and Youth Surveys (VACS).” 

This work culminated at the 2023 BPF, where Dr. Samantha Ski, URC, presented the landscape analysis findings during a plenary session. Her presentation included several recommendations, such as government ownership of multisectoral coordination and national response to VACS. These recommendations were deliberated at the DJCC and adopted as resolutions during the HMC later that week. An advocacy-oriented reception also highlighted VACS during the BPF. Umasree Polepeddi, Chief, Basic Education and Adolescent Development, UNICEF Lesotho, emphasized that governments need to ensure policy implementation and engagement of local influencers – including children – in violence prevention.

A History of Success

This is not the first time ECSA-HC’s BPF has advanced an issue to the HMC.

Respectful Maternal Care

In 2017, the Africa Academy for Public Health and University of California, San Francisco, presented findings from implementation research detailing manifestations of disrespect, abuse and promising approaches for advancing Respectful Maternal Care (RMC). The BPF concluded with ECSA-HC’s DJCC recommending RMC as a priority action area. This positioned RMC as a prominent topic at the HMC, which passed a set of resolutions, including one specifically on RMC.

Urban Health

During the ECSA-HC BPF in June of 2018, partners in the Implementation Science Collaboration on Urban Health in East Africa launched their Three Country Urban Nutrition Assessment. Dialogue from the Forum culminated in recommendations which were posed to the ECSA-HMC for consideration. One of the five resolutions underscored the need to confront urban health challenges and urged member states to leverage the value of implementation research as an integral part of the process. Photo credit: Steffan Jensen /

How Does the ECSA-HMC Work?

ECSA-HC is a sub-regional intergovernmental health organization comprised of nine member states and has served as a platform for debate, agenda-setting and evidence to policy translation. While the ECSA-HMC is not meant to be a scientific conference like the ECSA-HC BPF, it presents an opportunity to further engage the Ministers in scientific and technical discussion on priority themes. Regional resolutions are key tools for influencing national policy and accountability within member states and invites a broader network of stakeholders to work together toward realization of the resolution objectives.

Dr. Yoswa Dambisya, Director General, ECSA-HC, provides a brief overview of ECSA-HC and how it works with ministries of health and regional partners.